A new organization, representing community hearing care providers across the UK, has been created. The National Community Hearing Association (NCHA) aims to work with the government, hospitals, charities and private providers to ensure that people can access hearing care in the best way for them.
According to a NCHA statement, the group seeks to put patients at the heart of how hearing care services are delivered by empowering individuals with information, support and choices. The association seeks to make hearing care in the community an integral part of any future National Health Services (NHS) system by focusing on integrated services and a holistic approach to delivering care. It also hopes to become an effective voice for community hearing care providers, so they can partner and work across specialities to deliver integrated services for patients with sensory impairment.
The NCHA has already had some successes. The association says it has responded to important public consultations in England and Scotland with the British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists (BSHAA); provided members with support on government contracts; held fringe events with colleagues in pharmacy and optics at the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour party conferences, and more.
“Hearing is fundamental to so many aspects of our lives, not least to independence, social inclusion and well being in older age,” explains Mark Georgevic, NCHA chair. As a primary care service, hearing care has traditionally been overlooked and only available to paying patients. The introduction of NHS-funded community hearing services has the potential to change this and allow every adult affected by hearing loss to access care in the community, close to home, based on need and not ability to pay. We must now work together and give all patients access to this choice,” he adds.
“There is a lot of work to be done in England where strategies for ‘vulnerable older people and primary care’ are being developed, and also in Scotland where there is a welcome new focus at [the] government level on sensory impairment,” says David Hewlett, chief executive of NCHA. “Only the community hearing service working with hospitals and the voluntary sector can meet that need,” he adds.
NCHA members come from all the major hearing companies and a growing number of smaller providers, which together deliver the majority of adult community hearing care services in the UK, according to the group.